Combining the regular season and postseason, 12 Falcons players recorded at least one sack in 2016. OLB Vic Beasley, Jr. was the NFL's top performer in the regular season with 15.5.
The 2016 season was a breakout season for Vic Beasley Jr. and Grady Jarrett in many ways as they both evolved into integral players in Atlanta's defense. Not only did they find their knack for getting to opponents' quarterbacks – the duo combined for 48 percent (21.5) of Atlanta's 44 total sacks on the year, postseason numbers included – they learned and defined their specific roles.
Third-year defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman also emerged onto the scene late in the season for the Falcons, becoming a key player for Atlanta's defense in the postseason. Hageman showed his dominance along the interior with his performance in the NFC Championship game versus the Green Bay Packers where he recorded three tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack.
With head coach Dan Quinn at the helm and several young, talented players in tout, draft experts are predicting the Falcons will continue to build this unit, adding an edge rusher with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
ESPN's Mel Kiper released his second mock draft, in which he has Atlanta selecting Charles Harris, a defensive end from the University of Missouri.
"The Falcons had incredible health and continuity along the offensive line, obviously have the quarterback and the weapons on offense and have some nice young pieces on defense," Kiper said of his pick for the Falcons. "But they could use another capable pass-rusher to help out Vic Beasley. When you're guaranteed to face Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Drew Brees six times a season, you can't have enough there. Harris can come in and help."
Harris is commended for his athleticism, quick burst of speed and fluidity, all traits relatable to what Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff require from players on their roster.
Here's NFL.com draft expert Daniel Jeremiah's break down of Harris in his Top 50 prospects in the Draft list:
"Harris has average bulk and length for the position," Jeremiah said. "He lined up in both a two- and three-point stance at Missouri. As a pass rusher, he has a quick first step and a variety of ways to generate pressure. He incorporates a rip move, tight inside spin move, and a slap-swim move. He is sudden at the top of his rush and he's an excellent finisher. I'd like to see a little more push on his bull rush but he gets by without it. As a run defender, he is better on the backside than the frontside. He plays too high at times and gets uprooted. Overall, Harris is a very polished pass rusher who should be able to harass quarterbacks as soon as he hits an NFL field."